The first Fulkerson - in Dutch New York
Although he was born in Norway, he came to America from Hoon, North Holland. He first came to America with his brother on a trading voyage about 1620. In 1625, he returned to stay. He was brought over with a group of Northmen because they "would know how to render pitch from the pine trees."
We don't know much for certain about Dirck Volckertszen before 1630. He was said to be a ship's carpenter. One family legend has it that he came to the Dutch West India Company's New Amsterdam colony from Bergen, Norway. Another has it that he came by way of Hoorn, a Dutch seaport. One possible explanation lies with Peter MINUIT, the New Netherlands colony's third Director in as many years, who bought the whole of Manhattan Island in 1626 for $24 worth of trade goods. Anxious to show off the resources and potential of the new colony, Minuit and Assistant Director Isaac DE RAISIERES imported a group of Scandinavians who knew how to make pitch from pine [for caulking a ship's hull] and could help the colony begin a ship-building industry. This would place Dirck's arrival between 1626 and 1628. Another possibility is that he came over in 1625, when the Dutch West India Company imported builders to put up houses in the colony. (For the first year of the New Netherlands settlement, most of the colonists lived in log-lined, sod-roofed dugouts.) This scenario might have seen Dirck building the Vigne's house on the East River....and meeting a Christine Vigne who was in her early teens in that year. Dirck was a house builder in New Amsterdam.
The Dutch and the Norwegians used a "patronymic" naming system in which the father's first name became the children's last name, so there was no such thing as a "family name" that passed from one generation to the next. Dirck's son Volkert's children were surnamed variations of Volkerts, Volkertson and Folkertson. In 1664 the British seized the colony from the Dutch, and the patronymic system was slowly replaced by the English system of permanent family names. Generally, by the fourth and fifth generations we had adopted an Anglicized version of the name, FULKERSON.
Dirck married Christine VIGNE in 1630/31, daughter of Guillaume VIGNE and Adrienne CUVELIER. In France, a cuvelier was a barrel-maker. The name Vigne means "vine" in French, and is most often associated with vineyards for making wine. Vigne is pronounced VIN-YEH , with neither syllable accented. The Vignes were among the first 30 French Walloon families the Dutch West India Company imported to establish the New Netherlands colony in 1624. [By the way, Peter MINUIT was not Dutch...he was a French Walloon like the Vignes.] Dirck and Christine lived on her parents' farm, at the south end of Broadway, until 1638. Christine's father died in 1632, and Dirck and his mother-in-law were named executors of the will, as recorded below:
"We, the underwritten, William WYMAN, blacksmith and Jan Thomaisen GROEN, as good men do attest and certify that before us appeared Dirck VOLCKERSON, the Norman and Ariantje CEVELYN, his wife's mother in order to agree with her children by her lawful husband, deceased; she gives to Maria VIGNE and Christine VIENJE, both married persons each the sum of 200 guilders as their share of their father's estate. To Rachel VIENJE and Jan VIENJE both minor children, each the sum of 33 guilders, under the condition that with her future husband, Jan Jansen DAMEN, she shall be held to keep the said two children in good support, until the come of age, and that she shall be obliged to clothe and feed them and make them go to school as good parents are bound to do."
After he and Christina married in New Netherland, he moved into her home with her mother and stepfather, "Old Jan". Christina's married sister and her family also resided there. Both married couples continued to live there after having children. Finally, "Old Jan" lost his temper chased them all out and obtained a court order to make sure they stayed out!
The Volckertszens went to Green Point (Bushwick), Long Island, where they lived until the Indian Wars of 1643-1644 forced them to leave. They returned to Manhattan and settled on what is now Pearl Street, from Wall Street north.
Between 1638 and 1645 Dirck owned and probably occupied the large house at 125 Pearl Street, just below Wall Street. It was on a quarter-acre and had a garden and apple trees. He sold the house in 1645. The deed states he took six of the apple trees when he moved. In 1648 Sergeant Daniel LITSCHOE purchased the site and converted the house into a tavern. The site of this tavern appears on the 1660 map of the city; however, LITSCHOE traded it in 1653 for "the Jansen house" just north of the City Wall. This may have been the old VIGNE home, since Jan Jansen DAMEN had just died, so Adrienne CUVELIER - Dirck's mother-in-law and Jan's widow - may have spent her last three years of life in Dirck's old house on Pearl Street. In 1691, Captain KIDD and his new wife, the former Mrs. Sarah OORT, moved into a large house on Pearl Street, half a block south of Dirck's old house. .
Dirck began farming in earnest in 1638, when he leased a bouwery (farm) and stock from the colony's Governor, Willem KIEFT, "on halves." This farm was near brother-in-law Cornelis VAN TIENHOVEN's "plantation" at Smits Vly (translation: Smith's Flat), northeast of Wall Street. On August 4, 1649, VAN TIENHOVEN sold property on the 250 block of Pearl Street to Dirck and their other brother-in-law, Abraham VER PLANCK. The lots were about a half-acre each, extending from the East River (at Maiden Lane) to some high ground at the rear. Dirck subdivided his lot into smaller properties, and during the next five years sold the lots with or without a house. The deeds are recorded. Hage BRUYNSEN the Swede bought a lot from him in November 1653 and built his own house. (In February 1654 Dirck sued BRUYNSEN to pay for the property.) Dirck built himself a house in 1649, then sold it to Roeloff TEUNISSEN - a Swedish sea captain from Goteborg - in 1651 after building himself another new house. [These are also shown on the 1660 map. Dirck and Abraham later owned other lots on Manhattan through their wives' inheritance, which was substantial: their mother-in-law Adrienne CUVELIER (VIGNE) and her husband Jan Jansen DAMEN owned Manhattan from Pine Street north to Maiden Lane, and from the East River to the Hudson River.
Another significant development occurred in 1638 - the Indians agreed to allow Dutch settlement in Brooklyn. Dirck was one of the first to take advantage of the newly-available lands, receiving a grant to buy 400-500 acres of land from the Indians. It had a mile-long frontage on the East River and had nearly the same frontage on the two tidal streams that bounded his land, Norman Kill and Mespath Kill. (The Dutch called streams or creeks "kills"). Mespath Kill, on the north boundary, became Newtown Creek after the British moved into the area and founded the Newtown settlement. [See the 1639 map] The northwest point along the East River frontage was known as Noorman's Point. Years later it was planted with green wheat fields and gained its current name of Greenpoint. Several other Scandinavians are linked to Dirck on a recurring basis and held neighboring properties, including Jochem CALDER, Claes CARSTENSEN, Jan FORBUS De Swede, Pieter JANSEN Noorman and Jacob HAIE (HUYS).
Dirck was one of the few Brooklyn property owners who actually improved their properties in the early years. It is said that the Indians came back to him each year, asking for more money, because the land had increased in value. His improvements suffered some setbacks in the Indian uprisings of 1643 and 1655, when fields were destroyed and homes and barns were burned. Indians killed two of his sons-in-law, Jan H. SCHUTT in 1652 and Cornelis HENDRICKSEN Van Dort in 1655, and tortured a third, Herman Hendricksen ROSENKRANZ, for eight days in 1659.
Dirck was a commuting farmer. He traveled up the East River in his boat from Smits Vly on Manhattan to his bouwerie on the Long Island shore. He began building a stone farm house on Long Island about 1645. It faced south on Norman's Kill, where he sheltered his boats. He may not have moved into the house until after 1655, when the small nearby settlement of Boswyck was established. Until then, there weren't enough neighbors around to assist in protecting the property from Indian attacks. The house remained occupied for 200 years. The land grant was officially recorded on April 3, 1645 and continued to be recognized after the English took over the colony in 1664. He leased part of the land, plus some other land probably on Manhattan, to fellow Norwegian Jochem CALDER in 1651. The 20-year lease gave CALDER free rent for the first six years, and he was to pay 150 guilders a year after that. It appears that Dirck was trying to gain more neighbors in Brooklyn, to help defend against the Indians, as a number of outright sales followed in the early 1650's.
In January 1656 Dirck Volckertszen was sued by Jan DE PERIE, a barrel-maker, who claimed Dirck stabbed him and "chased him from the Strand to the Clapboards." The suit demanded payment for surgeon's fees and loss of time. The quarrel began during a dice game on December 18, 1655. DE PERIE was trying to cheat and Dirck caught him at it. The argument turned into a fist fight and ended with both drawing their knives. Dirck was stabbed in the shoulder, DE PERIE in the belly. Dirck filed a counter suit to call several witnesses. DE PERIE's servant Jan Fredericksen testified Dirck struck first, and that DE PERIE chased Dirck through the streets. Maria PEECK, a tavern-keeper's wife, told of hearing DE PERIE conspire with his servant before the game, saying "There's Dirck the Noorman, who has a box of seawan [Indian shell money] in his sack, and he should play or the Devil should take him." [She was banished from New Amsterdam in 1663 for selling alcohol to the Indians.] The case dragged on until June 1658, when Dirck agreed to pay a fine for wounding DE PERIE. Street fights had become such a common sport in New Amsterdam that, in 1657, Peter STUYVESANT established a fine of 100 guilders for drawing a knife... and quadruple if blood was shed. By the time the trial ended, Dirck held the post of city carpenter and his brother-in law Jan VIGNE was on the City Council...so his fine may not have been quite that high. [DE PERIE was also called Jan DE PREE in the court proceedings. A Jan DE PREE sued Dirck for the right to the property at Greenpoint in 1644. DE PREE lost and Dirck received his official grant to the land in 1645. Coincidentally, a Jean DE PRY was killed in a shipwreck in July 1658 while trying to take a cargo of sugar and tobacco, presumably in barrels, to Quebec.]
In February 1656 Dirck was sued for taking a canoe. He said two Englishmen had found it and left it on his property, and no one had come to claim it. He said it was laying about in sorry shape until he decided to repair it. Then the owner, Mrs. Dirck Claessen POTTEBACKER, demanded its return. He refused to turn it over to her unless she paid for the repairs. The court agreed, appointed two men to estimate the value of the repairs, and when payment was made Dirck returned the canoe.
Dirck was listed third on the charter of incorporation for the town of Boswyck (Bushwick) which was founded with 22 families (mostly French Walloons) in 1655. The town was on the south border of his property. In 1662 he and some other landowners petitioned the authorities to have a road made to their properties. Dirck gave some land to the town, probably for the right of way and in payment for the road. In 1663 he served some role with the town's militia, and in 1664 he was Superintendent of Fencing (the wooden palisades surrounding the village for protection against Indian attacks).
Dirck and all of his family settled down around Boswyck. One historian states that "Dirck naturally contributed in the layout of the village, and in the construction of the buildings, the docks at the waterways, the roads and highly important palisade." He also notes "his lore in Indian warfare" and "the stimulation of his belligerent personality in creating courage and initiative in those fellow settlers who had but recently arrived from European countries... He must be considered to have been one of the three outstanding personalities in the history of the town of Boswyck. He became its patriarch. He was its oldest constituent." Dirck paid taxes to the town of Boswyck in 1675, and to New York in 1677. He died about 1678 or 1680, and was probably buried on his farm. His wife Christine had preceded him in death... there is no record of her after 1663. In the 1850's the stone house was demolished, and a knoll believed to contain the family plots was leveled, to provide sand for construction in Manhattan.
Dirck had sold some of his Greenpoint land even before he moved there: 45 acres to Peter HUDDE and Abraham JANSEN in 1651. This sale was witnessed by Peter STUYVESANT. He sold 62 acres to Jacob HAIE in 1653. Indians burned down HAIE's house at Greenpoint on November 8, 1655, during the second great uprising. On January 1, 1666, Dirck made a contract with his son Volkert, in which the son was to have the land, stock, and equipment for a period of five years for half of the grown products: maize, tobacco, rapeseed, etc. He also gave some meadow land to his daughter Ariantje, but on April 24, 1677 bought it back from her and her husband, Carel HUYSMAN, and gave it to Volkert. He gave 22 acres to his other son, Jacob, on that same date. On April 26, 1677 he sold another part of his property to son-in-law Peter SCHAMP. A tax assessment in 1683, after Dirck's death, showed that his son Volkert owned 200 acres. Volkert sold some of it to Jan MESEROLE and to Peter PRAA. On January 19, 1701, part of the land was surveyed and recorded as belonging to the "Widow of Folkert DIRKSEN." On March 16 of 1718 or 1719, the land was divided among her three sons, Dirck, Philip and Klaas, each receiving a third of the 164 acres. On the same date they made a joint sale to Peter PRAA, and the land passed out of the family.Dirck's house, according to a Greenpoint historian, was at Franklin and Calyer streets in Greenpoint's historic district. Nearby Norman Avenue was named for Dirck, as was Norman Creek.
Dirck was identified in a 1635 document as "Dirck VOLGERSEN the Noorman." A 1639 map listed his bouwerie (farm) as the "Bou. van DITRYCK DE NORMAN. Several historians and three independent family records call him VOLCKERTSEN, VOLCKERTSZEN, and VOLKERTSEN. These variations all have a Dutch "-sen" or "-szen" ending. The "ck" letter combination is also Dutch. Some legal and civil documents called him HOLGERSON or HOLGERSEN, but the Dutch Reformed Church (in records of baptisms at which he was a witness) called him VOLCKERTSZEN. Dirck must have liked the name, because he named his first son Volkert.
His surname probably started out as HOLGERSON or HOLGERSSØN, which the New Amsterdammers transformed into the Dutch name VOLCKERTSZEN. This would not have happened simply through differences in pronunciation. The Dutch had words and names that began with an "H" and which were not pronounced with a "V."
Historians have settled the matter by giving Dirck's last name as "Volckertsen," except when referring to one of those documents in which his name appeared as HOLGERSON or HOLGERSEN. Rather than add to the confusion, this site will call him Dirck VOLCKERTSZEN or Dirck DE NOORMAN - the name and nickname by which he was "commonly" known in his own day. The name became Anglicized to VOLKERTSON by the end of the 17th century and continued in that form until about the American Revolution when it changed again to FULKERSON.
Dirck didn't help us out by signing his name...in the early days he signed with an X. He did sign his name later on, but one family researcher said his signature "looks like Chinese." Decide for yourself. His "signatures" from 1651, 1658 and 1661 appear in his scrapbook. It appears possible from the first two signatures that he signed his name using a bumerke, which was a written symbol that served as a family mark in Norway, similar to a cattle brand. That 1661 signature is more or less open to interpretation, but it still has some of the line elements seen in the first two.
The first European to settle in Green Point was Dirck Volckertsen, known as Dirck the Norman. Dirck the Norman was a ship’s carpenter who came to the New World from Scandinavia. He was granted a patent in 1645 by the Dutch Governor as an outcome of the case, Jan de Pree vs. Dirck the Norman. This patent included all the land between Maspeth Kill (Newtown Creek), Bushwick Creek and the Back Meadow. Essentially, this patent encompassed most of the entire area of present-day Greenpoint. A year later in 1646, Dirck the Norman, built his house on a knoll near the northern branch of Bushwick Creek, known in his day and long afterwards as Norman’s Creek or Kill. According to Felter, Dirck’s house was west of the present day intersection of Calyer and Franklin Streets (Felter, pp. 18). Armbruster tells us that Dirck’s house had a view of the river to the west. Felter also tells us the site was carefully laid out with lawns that "...sloped gently in front to Norman’s kill on the south, and gradually to the East River on the west." (Felter, pp.18)
Dirck built his house along the lines of the Dutch style. Felter describes the house as constructed, "..of stone, one and a half stories in height, with dormer windows..." It also had, "..old Dutch doors, studded with glass eyes, and brass knockers." (Felter, pp. 18). As was common for houses located outside the Stockade at New Amsterdam, Dirck no doubt, had to fortify his house against occasional Indian attacks. The Indians became hostile toward the European settlers as a result of some unspecified crimes committed against them by William Keith, a Dutch Governor. Although the Indian War (1631-1645) had ended, there was still the danger of an occasional Indian raid. To defend himself, Dirck’s house more than likely sported two gun holes in the house’s wall, just under the porch. Thus, he and his family could fend off an attack with their muskets safely behind the house’s stone wall.
As is the case with most of the North Shore of Long Island, Green Point’s terrain and soil was affected by the retreating glaciers at the end of the Ice Age. The terrain was hilly and moraine-like with no shortage of glacial rocks. As any New England or Upstate New York farmer will tell you, clearing this kind of land is very hard work. To prepare this type of ground for planting, first the trees need to be cleared, an arduous task in and of itself. Once the tress and stumps are cleared, then the soil must be cleared of the rocks of all sizes deposited by the retreat of the glaciers so the soil can be tilled for planting.
Fortunately, this process also provided an abundant source of building material to construct houses and barns, and to fashion stone fences to contain their horses and other farm animals. As was the custom of the time, Dirck was a slave owner. He and other pre-Colonial and Colonial families had slaves to help them in clearing and tilling the land. The historical record indicates that these settler families were kindly in their treatment of their slaves. So much so, that when slavery was abolished in New York State in 1824, these slaves, now free, choose to stay with the families of their former masters.
And so, for eight years Dirck and his household tended to and nurtured the land of Green Point as its sole owner and inhabitant. In 1653, Dirck sold the northern portion of his holding to Jacob Hay. He sold 65 acres of land to Hay running along a line from the River at the north end of present day Franklin Street, northeast to approximately the northwest corner of where St. Anthony’s Church (Manhattan and Milton Street) now stands, then east to the Back Meadow whose western border roughly ran along present day McGuiness Blvd. The historical record seems to suggest that Hay himself never established a farm nor lived in Green Point.
However, the land was inherited in 1693 by Christina Cappoens, whose mother was Maria Cappoens, Jacob Hay’s widow who had remarried after Hay’s death. Christina married, Captain Pieter Praa, a Captain in the Militia and of Huguenot extraction. Shortly thereafter, they established a farm and built a house on a site located near the edge of the Back Meadow near present day Freeman Street and McGuiness Blvd. Pieter Praa played a significant role in the early days of Green Point and the greater Bushwick Township as a magistrate and an influential local and provincial politician. He was described as a “..magnificent horseman and a genuine sportsman”. (Felton, pp. 20).
Praa expanded his land holdings in 1687 when he purchased from Anneke Jan Bogardus of New Amsterdam approximately 130 acres of land at the opposite side of the mouth of the Maspeth Creek known in that day as Dominie’s Hoek. Later it would come to be known as Hunter’s Point and then as Long Island City. (Felter, pp. 22). The Praa’s also owned some 40,000 acres of New Jersey, that was apparently purchased for speculation purposes. Then in 1718, Praa purchased the remainder of Dirck the Norman’s land from his sons.
In 1681, Joost Durie (George Duryea) settled the land south of the Back Meadow and built his house near the foot of present day Meeker Avenue on the banks of the then Maspeth Kill (today’s Newton Creek). This farm was in a section of land whose ownership was disputed between Newtown and Bushwick Township. Joost also built his house in the Dutch style. This house was still standing in 1918! Felter included a photograph in his book (Felter, pp.21). This house, known for a time as the Duryea House, was refurbished in 1838 and was used as the toll house for the toll bridge built by the Newton and Bushwick Turnpike Company, known as the Penny Bridge. The toll was only a penny, hence its name. The Duryea family lived and farmed here for more than a century.South of the apex of the Back Meadow and Wood Point Road, Captain Pieter Janse Wit settled and farmed the land. His farm included present day Monsignor McGoldrick park, better known to Greenpointer’s by its original name, Winthrop park.
These then, were the New World founders of Green Point. Their success at taming and tilling the land ensured a firm foundation for the future of Green Point. They were able to demonstrate that the land was not only inhabitable, but that it also provided a hospitable and thriving environment in which to live.565